Sunday, December 31, 2006

Personality Types and Mothering Styles

A recent issue of a parenting magazine had a question about moms and parenting styles. The article used a basic personality profile to create articles on how different types of women mother their children. The basic concept is to use the popular psychological divisions to determine personality. There are four groupings in these personality quizzes.

The first looks at whether one is an extrovert, which is someone who is usually bubbly and derives joy from other people or an introvert, one who spends time alone and enjoys it. The second personality factor considers whether one is sensing or intuitive. In other words, do you focus on the way things are today or look to the future often? Third, are you a thinker or feeler. I have trouble with this one as I think I am a bit of both. Thinkers consider truth and justice to be paramount. They are across the board with no exceptions while feelers consider the specific situation and take circumstance into account. Finally, people who have judgment personalities like order and schedule while perception people fly by the seat of their pants.

The point of the Myers-Briggs test is that it can tell us much about ourselves and about why we have certain preferences and weaknesses. In the case of mothering, personality profiles can give us an idea of how will parent our children. For example, people who fit my profile are people who work very hard to be the perfect mother. The good thing about our mothering style is that we are forever available to our children. The bad part is that we can focus too much on trying to be and have the perfect experiences that we do not enjoy them.

The point of the article, of course, was that all mothers are different. Some mothers will be the first to volunteer for PTO, soccer organizer, and carpool driver because they believe that being available is of utmost importance while other mothers will want to give their children more space to develop on their own.

Even when you have a baby you will be able to see these distinctions in mothering. My husband and I read about infant brain development since we want our children to expand their minds continually, and we decided that allowing them free play time in their cribs from a very early age would be beneficial. I know other mothers of babies who believe that we should run to the crib as soon as we hear the first gurgle. Those types of early parenting decisions are what makes us different and what will teach our children to grow differently. It does not, however, mean that one of us is more right than another. It depends in large part on our priorities and what we want our children to learn from us.

At a time when women are returning from the workforce to have children in larger numbers than a decade ago, we find that competition between women about their children is heating up. Women are more likely to argue with each other over parenting now that there are no partnerships and large annual bonuses on the line. Instead the mother of an infant who cries often is viewed as less competent than the mother whose two-month-old is a little angel, never mind that the babies were born with personalities all their own.

If you are having a baby, you soon will find that this mommy competition will start likely before your baby is born. Women discuss the diets and habits of other expectant moms, and many moms will make you feel as if you are inadequate if you make different decisions. Breastfeeding has become an important issue. While the early research indicated a difference between breastfed and bottle-fed babies, that research is beginning to even out and show that some of those benefits were exaggerating by poor scientific decision-making. Still, many a breastfeeding mom thinks it is her right and duty to make other moms feel guilty about the decision to formula feed. Before your baby is born, work on developing a thick skin where your baby is concerned so that you can begin to accept your mothering style and be confident that you are doing right by your baby.

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